No Foolin’: Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise

You know what the big problem is with being well known for playing epic April Fool’s Day jokes on the public at large? The public at large starts to expect them, thus rendering such gags nearly impossible to pull off. Still, building up the status as a supremely self-righteous April Fooler was a fun process for the creative minds at Stone. Announcing we would start brewing a lemon-lime “malternative” beverage, a 27.3% ABV extra-strong ale, and a “lo-carb” beer (“Lite™” was trademarked), we’ve used this faux holiday to explore miles of territory we’d never tread in real life…and even some we would.

On April 1, 2010, we told our fans we’d be teaming with our Scottish brewing comrades at BrewDog to craft BrewDog / Stone Luciferin Golden Imperial Stout, a high-alcohol stout coming in at 11.8% alcohol-by-volume with plenty of roasty flavor. There was just one catch—it wouldn’t incorporate any roasted malts and it wouldn’t be brown in color. So, basically, it would be different from every stout on the planet. Nobody with a working knowledge of calendars bought it and, though it was, essentially a joke, our brewmaster, Mitch Steele, filed that idea away and spent the next four years secretly pondering how he’d create a golden-hued stout. And we’re glad he did, because now that imaginary beer has been brewed into brilliant reality. Enter, Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise.

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While this beer, the latest in our experimental and otherwise avant-garde series of Stochasticity Project brews, is slightly lower in alcohol than its fictitious predecessor—9.7%, to be exact—it’s actually quite similar to the concept for the prank that inspired it. In teasing BrewDog / Stone Luciferin Golden Imperial Stout, we said it relied on cacao nibs and coffee to mimic the chocolaty, roast-heavy flavors of a traditional imperial stout, and pale and extra pale malts to keep the color in the lower expanses of the SRM scale (the Standard Reference Method used to grade beer’s color). For Master of Disguise, Steele employed all of these tactics, and more!

Steele reached out to familiar conspirators, Ryan Bros. Coffee and Chocovivo. The latter provides pure cocoa in large, thin sheets, which add tremendous chocolate character as shown in Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout, while the former is based a few short miles from our brewery and has contributed roasted beans for use in numerous beers, including Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone DayMan Coffee IPA, 2013 Stone ESPRESSO Imperial Russian Stout and Stone Coffee Milk Stout. The fruits of our suppliers’ labors played a big part in helping Steele pull off this charade, as did the malt bill, which consisted purely of lighter varieties including Caraplis, and English amber and pale malts. Flaked oats were also added to give the beer a thicker mouth-feel more in line with what one expects from a smooth, velvety stout.

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So, Master of Disguise looks like a pale ale or IPA, but there was more to this endeavor than aesthetics. The aroma, taste and composition were every bit as important—what good is a beer if it doesn’t taste delicious, after all? Fortunately, the chocolate, coffee and oats did the trick with this treat of a beer, which presents notes of java in the bouquet and the front palate. Chocolate comes through mid-sip, conveyed by a slightly viscous body akin to an oatmeal stout in its creaminess, and the finish features a light yet lasting roastiness. Stochasticity Project Master of Disguise is the physically embodied proof of a lofty hypothesis. Let’s just hope Steele isn’t as keen to realize other Stone April Foolery like Bastard Oxide, a metal-laced energy drink, or BastardSHOTZ, 22 ounces of Arrogant Bastard Ale condensed into three ounces of gel conveniently doled into three-ounce, EZ-squeeze “Gel Pakz” for on-the-go American strong ale enthusiasts, or the canned and helium-infused Stochasticity Project CrHeam Ale.

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Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 9.7%
  • IBUs: 55 IBUs
  • Availability: Limited22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning November 17
  • Hop Bill: Liberty and Nugget
  • Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT and WA
  • Appearance: Pours deep gold, with a light tan head.
  • Aroma: Coffee aromatics dominate. Roasted notes and cocoa play in the background, until the beer warms in the glass, and then they are pleasantly apparent along with fruity esters from the yeast and hints of vanilla.
  • Taste: At first, the flavor is mostly coffee and fruity esters from the fermentation. As the flavor progresses, more cocoa comes out, along with a balanced bitterness.
  • Palate: Full-bodied and smooth
  • Overall: After we brewed Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, a black IPA, someone on the brewery team joked that our next beer should be a golden stout. We then used that joke for an April Fool’s gag one year, and I’ve been wondering if we could pull it off ever since. The resulting beer here is a rich strong ale with prevalent coffee and cocoa notes.

Suggested Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Bacon-wrapped dates, coconut shrimp, blue cheese-stuffed mushrooms, spiced pumpkin seeds
  • Soups: French onion, beef stew, lentils, chili con carne
  • Entrées: Lamb chops, coffee-rubbed venison, mushroom risotto, red lentil curry
  • Cheeses: Aged Cheddar, Maytag Blue, Grana Padano, Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
  • Desserts: Brownies, vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, tiramisu
  • Cigars: Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Maduro, Liga Privada No. 9 by Drew Estate, Illusione MJ12 Maduro, Arturo Fuente Opus X

 

Hopsploitation: Getting the Most Out of Our Hops

We’re obsessed with hops and all the bitter, fruity, resinous, tropical flavors they can bring to beer. These little buds are amazing in and of themselves, but the work that goes into making those characteristics shine is just as impressive. From the kettle and far beyond, we’re breaking down the magic of getting the most out of our hops and pushing those IBUs ever higher. 2O3A2029

Classic Combo: Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel

A Mandarin orange wedge dipped in molten ganache, a Grand Marnier-infused 70% cacao truffle, a velvety sweet craft cocktail combining Cointreau and chocolate liqueur, one of those holiday specialty confections that looks like a milk chocolate orange and breaks apart into delicious citrusy-sweet segments…heck, even something as simple as a piece of chocolate and a slice of orange. Regardless of the edible example one references, the symbiotic flavors of chocolate and orange are as plentiful as they are scrumptious. So, when looking for yet another way to use complimentary ingredients to augment our time-honored recipe for Stone Smoked Porter, we decided to lean on this long-time favorite and add our own incredible iteration of cocoa-citrus pairability to the world. Enter Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel, the third transformatively enchanting version of this peat-smoked stalwart to be bottled and distributed to Stone fans.

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The history of our special editions of this beer date back over half-a-decade ago, when Small Batch Brewer Laura Ulrich was wowed by a beer float featuring a hefty scoop of vanilla bean ice cream afloat in a pint glass filled with…you guessed it, Stone Smoked Porter. It got her to thinking about ways to bring that flavor to life in a beer sans dairy confections. She went on to infuse industrial strength Madagascar vanilla beans into a pilot brew and subsequently blow the minds of her Stone brethren and sistren, including Co-founder and CEO Greg Koch. Stone Smoked Porter w/Vanilla Bean is a big reason Greg was so receptive when our Merchandising mastermind Chris Carroll suggested infusing chili peppers into the beer to create a craft alternative to fizzy, yellow cerveza for Cinco de Mayo. Harnessing a chili with a low heat index and smokiness built to match that of the beer, Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle Peppers was born. This brief history begs the question: What was the impetus behind Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel. The answer: Greg wanted to see what else the Brew Crew could do with this beer.

The brewers kicked around numerous ideas, and the one they kept gravitating toward was something dubbed the “Stone Smoked Porter—Autumn Addition Edition,” where we would harvest fall-time herbs, spices, fruits, gourds and who knows what else from Stone Farms to bring the essence of autumn to life within this masterful dark ale. The Brew Crew took steps down that crunchy, red and orange leaf-strewn road until, one day, the idea of adding cacao nibs and orange peel to mirror the aforementioned classic chocolate-citrus combo came about. The suggestion was shouted from the rooftops or penned on a whiteboard in towering, bold letters. It was uttered at a most normal volume and tone, but it resonated as though delivered in a booming voice descending from the heavens all the same. It was clear this the best direction for us to go, so Brewmaster Mitch Steele immediately changed course, brewing a pilot batch of this beer that made it clear this was, indeed, the way for us to go.

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The name Stone Smoked Porter w/Chocolate & Orange Peel is actually a bit of a misnomer, since there is no actual chocolate in the beer. Cacao nibs—roasted pieces of cacao beans—provide the bitter notes of chocolate in its purest form while also introducing an earthen spiciness that complements the porter’s peat-induced smoke. Pure cacao liqueur (pure cocoa without any sugar or dairy added) is added during the brew, then the beer is steeped with cacao nibs for chocolaty intensity. Those characteristics are contrasted beautifully by the orange peel, which also brightens up the beer’s overall taste profile. It took a while to get to this chapter in the Stone Smoked Porter saga—more than five years, actually—but like most of the greatest things in life, additional time translated to something phenomenal. Cheers to a most splendid fourth chapter in a tremendously delightful tale.

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Stats & Tasting Notes by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

  • ABV: 5.9%
  • IBUs: 53 IBUs
  • Availability: Limited22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning October 20
  • Hop Bill: Magnum and Mt. Hood
  • Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MT, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, and Puerto Rico
  • Appearance: Pours deep brown with a tan head.
  • Aroma: Peat-smoked malt, orange peel and coffee with hints of cocoa.
  • Taste: First impression is the smoky flavor from the peat-smoked malt that characterizes our regular Stone Smoked Porter, followed immediately by a blast of orange peel and citrus. Cocoa and roast malt characters follow, but the orange peel is particularly prominent in the aftertaste.
  • Palate: Medium body with a light sweetness and citrus tang, along with balanced hop bitterness.
  • Overall: This is a fun beer to brew. We’ve loved this orange and chocolate flavor in beer for a long time, and our team has made several casks of this particular version that are always very popular. The orange notes blend in well with the dark-roasted malt character, and the peat-smoked malt adds layers of flavor.

Suggested Pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

  • Appetizers: Goatcheese-stuffed mushrooms, coconut shrimp, bacon-wrapped dates, pulled pork sliders, hummus, artichoke dip
  • Soups: Beef stew, lentil, New England-style clam chowder, French onion soup, chili con carne
  • Entrées: Pork tenderloin, lamb chops, filet mignon, stuffed Poblano peppers, Indian yellow curry
  • Desserts: Tiramisu, chocolate lava cake, oatmeal cookies, pecan pie, vanilla ice cream

Cream of the Crop: 2014 Hop Selection

The grassy perfume of freshly collected hops, rolling hills flush with lush greenery for as far as the eye can see, Mount Adams looming majestically on the horizon—this is what dreams are made of. Well, this is what dreams are made of if you are a craft beer fan reading the Stone Blog; a lupulin-hankering hophead unabashed in their love of bold, botanically driven India pale ales. We get it and we understand. There were plenty of moony, slack-jawed looks on the faces of Stone brewers who recently made the annual pilgrimage to Yakima, Washington to partake in the holiest of brewing industry traditions—hop selection. This is where we get our first look at the year’s bounty and make decisions that will affect our ability to brew the unapologetically profound ales that, like those hops, you’ve come to crave.

Tongue Twister: Stochasticity Project Hibiscusicity

Today, we released upon this nation a beer with the most challenging name in the history of our 18-years-young operation. That’s saying a lot considering we’re the craft brewers who brought you such multi-syllabic wonders as Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout, Stone Mixtape Ale vol.9 – Goats in the VIP Room Blend, The Bruery/Elysian/Stone La Citrueille Celeste De Citracado and, of course, Stone Suitable For Cave Aging – An Imperial Smoked Porter Tribute to Danny Williams. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Of course, odd nomenclature is the rule of thumb for the Stochasticity Project, which, since its debut earlier this year, has yielded ales called Varna Necropolis and Quadrotriticale. Before unleashing this new moniker on you, perhaps its best to go back a step and examine a term that’s both plenty perplexing and worth taking a look at—Stochasticity.

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Crowd Pleaser: Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout

Picture it…a room full of thirsty beer bloggers, media and industry types seated at tables with tasting glasses. It can be daunting to pour beers for such a discerning crowd—especially one with plenty of dump buckets at their disposal. But that was the mission at hand during a session of the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference, during which representatives from a number of quality craft breweries (including our friends at The Lost Abbey and Firestone Walker Brewing Company) sought to wow these 150-plus beer enthusiasts with their latest creations. Now, we weren’t nervous. We’re Stone. We save jitters and anxiety for others. We had total faith in what we had to offer, but even so, found ourselves pleasantly surprised with the incredible reception our beer was afforded as well as the myriad compliments it earned. Like us, these people have devoted their entire lives to beer, so to be lauded with kudos and positive reviews was high praise, indeed. Today, that beer, Chris Banker/Stone/Insurgente Xocoveza Mocha Stout, begins showing up on store shelves and draft accounts across the country.

Looking Back (& Forward): Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

We put in a full year of planning, effort and beer wrangling to make the annual Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival the best and biggest it can be. Considering it’s the largest annual beer fest on the West Coast, we’re inclined to believe we do a hell of a job. We just wish it didn’t go by so quick. In less than 24 hours, we blow through 364 days’ worth of work and just about as many (but even more) kegs! Take, for instance, this year. Over 50 breweries from around the country showed up and brought 187 beers. And that’s all in addition to the 50 Stone beers we busted out to celebrate 18 years in the craft brewing biz! It was the kind of fete we wished every fan that helped us get to this ripe (young?) age could have participated in. But alas, even with nearly 8,000 tickets sold (and more than a quarter million dollars raised for charity, thank you very much), some will only experience this special day via this blog post. So, we’re going to go as in depth as possible so those who couldn’t make it know what to expect when they hopefully come out next year, and those who did join us can have fun reliving the Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.

Hoppy Uncharted Territory: Stone 18th Anniversary IPA

We pride ourselves on being unpredictable, but we’re able to be honest with ourselves and say that, when it comes to our annual anniversary beer releases, fans know what to expect—something extremely hoppy! And most years, that means an over-the-top India pale ale. Ten out of the 17 anniversary beers we’ve produced to-date have been IPAs, including the past four consecutive years. So, it should come as no surprise that this year, our milestone-celebrating beer is another IPA. But, much as we’ve refused to be completely predictable with our anniversary IPAs (the past four years have featured an imperial British-style IPA, double black IPA, lemon verbena-infused imperial rye IPA, and 100% German-hopped double IPA), 2014’s commemorative hop monster is extremely original. In fact, we’re billing Stone 18th Anniversary IPA as the “hoppiest golden-brown IPA on Earth!” (Yes, that’s our subtle brand of sarcasm you’re picking up there!)

#PairedWith Wages On: Stone Coffee Milk Stout

When we debuted Stone Saison, we did more than introduce our unique spin on a Belgian-style ale. We also ushered in a new age that allows our fans to get involved with discovering the best-suited edible vehicles for maximum enjoyment of our beers, all thanks to a hashtag—#PairedWith. When Stone Saison came out, we provided a quartet of recipes constructed to pair perfectly with the beer, so fans could prepare them and experience food-and-beer symbiosis for themselves. But we also asked fans to experiment with dishes and ingredients they thought would go well with Stone Saison and share their most successful pairings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #PairedWith. It was fun, educational and, at times, even surprising, and lots of people from beer- and food-bloggers to everyday craft beer nuts, got involved. So, we’re moving forward with our #PairedWith initiative, this time with a beer that’s completely different but amazingly well-suited for sidling up beside a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet—our new Stone Coffee Milk Stout.

Anything But Just Another IPA: Beachwood/Heretic/Stone Unapologetic IPA

We can see the headlines now: Stone makes another IPA! The world is shocked at such a divergence from a company that hardly ever explores hoppy beer styles. Yes, that’s sarcasm! Obviously, no one will be shocked to discover we’re making yet another aggressive IPA. We’ve never tried to hide our lust for hops. Heck, we freely fly our hophead flag. But we’re sure the question will arise. Stone has already made a bunch of IPAs, so why make another. Isn’t the already lupulin-obsessed market saturated with hoppy beers? And who says the world needs another IPA, anyway? We do!

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